November 20, 2013
President Barack Obama’s HealthCare.gov site is riddled with security flaws that put user data of millions of people at risk and it should be shut down until fixed, several technology experts warned lawmakers on Tuesday.
The testimony at a congressional hearing could increase concerns among many Americans about Obama’s healthcare overhaul, popularly known as Obamacare. Opinion polls show the botched rollout of the online marketplace for health insurance policies has hurt the popularity of the effort.
The website collects personal data such as names, birth dates, social security numbers, email addresses and other information that criminals could use for a variety of scams.
In a rapid “yes” or “no” question-and-answer session during a Republican-sponsored hearing by the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, Republican Representative Chris Collins of New York asked four experts about the security of the site:
“Do any of you think today that the site is secure?”
The answer from the experts, which included two academics and two private sector technical researchers, was a unanimous “no.”
“Would you recommend today that this site be shut down until it is?” asked Collins, whose party is opposed to Obamacare and has sought to capitalize on the failures of the website since it opened for enrollment on October 1.
Three of the experts said “yes,” while a fourth said he did not have enough information to make the call.
“The privacy and security of consumers’ personal information are a top priority,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said after the hearing.
“When consumers fill out their online marketplace applications they can trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards.”
HealthCare.gov allows consumers to shop for insurance plans under Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010 and mandated that Americans have health insurance. It also created new marketplaces to buy and sell policies.
The portal has been bedeviled by technical glitches and reports of security bugs, although officials say they are making progress with repairs and that it should be accessible to the “vast majority” of consumers by November 30.
“The Obama administration has a responsibility to ensure that the personal and financial data collected by the government is secure,” said Representative Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House science panel.
“Unfortunately, in their haste to launch the HealthCare.gov website, it appears the administration cut corners that leaves the site open to hackers and other online criminals,” he said.